Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 5, 2011
BASEBALL: 2011 NL East EWSL Report
Part 5 of my very-belated preseason previews is the NL East; this is the fifth of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. Notes and reference links on the EWSL method are below the fold; while EWSL is a simple enough method that will be familiar to long-time readers, it takes a little introductory explaining, so I'd suggest you check out the explanations first if you're new to these previews. Team ages are weighted by non-age-adjusted EWSL, so the best players count more towards determining the age of the roster.
Some players are rated based on less than three seasons or given a rookie rating. Key:
Raw EWSL: 190.33 (77 W)
Subjective Adjustments: I docked Martin Prado 2 Win Shares (dropping him from 17 to 15), which is a very conservative estimate of his reduced defensive value on moving to left field - I'd have docked him further but his ability to slide back into the middle infield remains valuable and could yet be called upon by the Braves. Also docked Freddie Freeman 1 Win Share, as his youth, limited minor league track record and slow start raise at least some questions about his value. But I didn't want to tinker too much here.
Although Beachy looks for now like he should comfortably exceed 4 WS, you can never count your chickens with rookie starting pitchers.
Also on Hand: Position players - Brandon Hicks, JC Bosan, Jordan Schafer.
Pitchers - Peter Moylan, Kris Medlen, Rodrigo Lopez, Cristhian Martinez (I swear some of these guys' names are misspelled with malice aforethought), Cory Gearin, Jairo Asencio, Mike Minor.
Analysis: Yeah, I'm as surprised as you are that the Braves rate ahead of the Phillies, especially when you consider that EWSL has the Phillies as a 101-win team before applying the age adjustments. I take it with a grain of salt, though; the margin isn't large, and it's not hard to see how, say, Brooks Conrad could contribute less this year or Jason Heyward could fail to take The Leap (even the great ones don't always move in straight lines), in addition to the issues noted with Prado and Freeman. But as discussed below, the ranking says more about the Phillies than it does about the Braves.
Raw EWSL: 264.17 (101 W)
Subjective Adjustments: None. I might have had some issues regarding how to value Domonic Brown, but for now, since Brown has zero value based on his prior major league experience and isn't available to play right now, I'm just treating him like any other prospect not yet on the roster.
Also on Hand: Position players - Domonic Brown, Dane Sardinha, Josh Barfield, Brian Bocock.
Pitchers - JC Romero, Kyle Kendrick, David Herndon, Scott Mathieson, Michael Stutts, Mike Zajuski, Vance Worley. Note that the gap with the Braves disappears if you replace Bastardo on the 23-man roster with Romero.
Analysis: It's not quite "The Devil and Joe Morgan" - Bill James' memorable essay on how the 1983 "Wheeze Kids" Phillies confronted an aging roster not by rebuilding but by bringing in even more, even older players to squeeze out one last championship - as this Phillies team's key players aren't as old as, say, the Hated Yankees' and the main import, Cliff Lee, is hardly decrepit at 32. But age is everywhere up and down this roster, and its grim companion - injuries - has already taken a toll on Chase Utley and Brad Lidge. Meanwhile, ill fortune has struck in other ways - besides the injury to young Brown, Roy Oswalt has left the team for an indeterminate amount of time to deal with an undisclosed personal issue (which could be anything, whether it's an issue with Oswalt or his family - we just can't know how serious it is or how long he'll be away).
I still see the Phillies as the team to beat in this division, assuming Oswalt's not out for long; their starting pitching is fearsome, and the offense, if no longer terrifying, remains deep. But aging teams have a way sometimes of falling short of their name-brand value.
Raw EWSL: 170.67 (70 W)
Subjective Adjustments: None.
Also on Hand: Position players - Osvaldo Martinez, Bryan Petersen, John Baker (injured).
Pitchers - Randy Choate, Michael Dunn, Burke Badenhop.
Analysis: The Marlins are off to an odd start, 19-10 entering today's action even with their star, Hanley Ramirez, off to his second straight terrible start, .198/.308/.277, and a few other early problems - Infante's not hitting, Morrison's on the DL, and perhaps more predictably, Vazquez and Volstad have been horrible. Does this bode well for them? Maybe. Certainly Josh Johnson just keeps getting better - he's now 36-12 with a 2.78 ERA since his return in 2008, and in his last 224.2 IP his line is awe-inspiring: 2.04 ERA, 6.9 H/9, 0.3 HR/9, 2.4 BB/9, 9.0 K/9. And the development of Sanchez and the young outfield is encouraging - Stanton now has 27 HR and a .511 career slugging average in 126 career games, Sanchez has a career line of .281/.350/.458, Morrison .291/.397/.482 as a doubles-and-walks machine after posting OBPs of .402, .408 and .424 from age 20-22 in the minors. But recent history suggests that this team may have trouble keeping the rotation healthy (and perhaps the outfield as well). That and their perennially questionable defense will be the main question marks.
New York Mets
Raw EWSL: 176.83 (72 W)
Subjective Adjustments: None.
Also on Hand: Position players - Jason Pridie, Lucas Duda, Chin-Lung Hu. Brad Emaus opened the season as the everyday 2B but, being a Rule V pick, left the organization when he was sent down.
Pitchers - Johan Santana, who is unlikely enough to return this season as to not be worth inclusion. Jason Isringhausen, Dillon Gee, Pedro Beato (one of the team's few effective relievers so far but currently disabled), Pat Misch, Ryota Igarashi.
I've rated Parnell with the big club, although after early struggles he got shipped back to AAA. I'll be surprised if he's not back soon.
Analysis: I could, and probably should soon separately, write a lot more about these Mets, but I'll try to be brief here in the interests of getting this post done. In addition to time constraints, one of the sad realities of my blogging life is the number of subjects I can't really write about due to possible overlaps with my job, and now that has even invaded the core of my baseball blogging, as the Mets' financial mess is too tied up with the world of Madoff and my practice specialty - securities litigation - for me to address freely except in the most general terms.
I've been saying all year that I think this is a .500 team, which in the context of the prevailing mood among Mets fans makes me decidedly bullish. The starting rotation has been the biggest threat to that so far (we already knew the bullpen would be a mess).
The biggest variable, in terms of both upside and downside, is the outfield, which now includes as well Angel Pagan, who got off to a terrible start before getting hurt. Here's Carlos Beltran, 2001-2010: .283/.366/.509 2011, entering today's action: .294/.379/.520 - he's the same hitter (his 148 OPS+ would be the second-best of his career after his 2006 season), just not the same fielder and baserunner he was before the knee injury. With his contract up at season's end, Beltran could be traded to a contender later in the season if he is willing to go. (Jose Reyes might too, but I can't really analyze the wisdom of that without getting into the team's finances).
Raw EWSL: 154.17 (65 W)
Subjective Adjustments: None.
Also on Hand: Position players - Jesus Flores (injured), Roger Bernadina, Brian Bixler.
Pitchers - Steven Strasburg (injured, as you know), Chien-Ming Wang, Chad Gaudin, Brian Broderick, Collin Balester, Henry Rodriguez, Yunieski Maya.
Analysis: If you can explain the Phillies' decisions as a desperate rage against the dying of the light and the Mets' as the external symptoms of the team's financial situation, the Nationals' behavior seems to manifest a sort of organization-wide post-traumatic stress disorder following Steven Strasburg's injury, as if the team just said "to hell with having a plan," let Adam Dunn walk, blew through some money on mid-career mid-market free agents (Adam LaRoche, Jayson Werth), patched holes with slapdash additions like Rick Ankiel and Tom Gorzelanny, and then sat back and declared, "ah, that'll do" and went out to go on a bender. Another way of putting it is that the Nationals figured there was really no plan that could get them to a successful 2011, and decided to just throw a coat of paint over the team to avoid looking like they were giving up completely. But the real rebuilding will be on hold until 2012.
Bear in mind as always that (1) EWSL is a record of past performance, adjusted by age to give a probabalistic assessment of the available talent on hand; it is not an individualized projection system - EWSL tells you what you should reasonably expect to happen this year if there are no surprises, rather than shedding light on how to spot the surprises before they happen; (2) individual EWSL are rounded off but team totals are compiled from the unrounded figures; and (3) as demonstrated here, here, here, here, here and here in some detail, nearly all teams will win more games than their EWSL total because I'm only rating 23 players per team. (I'm not convinced going to 24 or 25 would make the system more useful, since it would tend to overrate teams that stuff their back bench slots with aging ex-regulars). That said, I also don't adjust for available playing time, since as a general rule, teams that have excess depth of players with established track records are better off than those that are stretching to cover their whole roster with guys who have proven they can do the job. The line for each team's estimated 2011 W-L record adds EWSL plus 39.8 Win Shares, which is the average number of Win Shares by the rest of the team's roster (i.e., the players other than the 23 listed before the season) over the teams I have tracked the past five seasons (it went up this season, as explained here).
As always, the depth charts here are drawn from multiple sources (my starting point was the depth charts at Baseball Prospectus.com, as well as USA Today's Baseball Weekly, and I've also worked from the actual playing time thus far in April, all modified by press reports and my own assessments) to list the guys who will end up doing the work. I take responsibility for any errors.